Consultant's report urges government to dump plans for high-speed rail
A consultant's report released Friday in St. Marys by Transport Action Canada suggests improving traditional train service by calling on upper levels of government to re-think how they will invest billions in rail.
The report calls for reinvestment in traditional VIA Rail routes, while at the same time rejecting the province's plan to spend billions on a high-speed service between Toronto and Windsor.
A couple of years ago, St. Marys was among a number of communities in southwestern Ontario to see its train schedule reduced as part of VIA’s restructuring.
That's having an impact on the community's viability.
“We used to have people who could go in on the early train to Toronto and then return to St. Marys on the late train, but when the cuts went through we lost that,” says St. Marys councillor Tony Winter.
The new report is a blue print for rebuilding VIA service nationwide with new trains, increased frequency and sustainable finance.
“It calls for incremental improvement using as much as possible, the existing rail lines,” says transportation consultant Greg Gormick.
But even as the report calls for enhancements to traditional VIA service, it’s highly critical of the province's plan for its largest rail investment - a high-speed train between Toronto and Windsor.
The Ontario government is undertaking an environmental assessment to design a high-speed rail line with stops in Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Windsor.
But Gormick says the billions of dollars proposed for high-speed rail would be better used re-investing in the existing VIA network.
“It is not going to be easy and it’s going to be damn expensive, so why don't you look at the alternate approach?”
Gormick says the goal should be comfortable, frequent and affordable service for the greatest number of Canadians.
“We just keep talking about this Ferrari that you can't afford or make proper use of. Or would you like just a meat and potatoes railway?”
The report was sent to Canada's new transportation minister, Mark Garneau, as well as other representatives in Ottawa.
The group hopes that the change in government will represent a change in the approach taken to rail service.